Friday, 18 September 2015

The Importance of Sharing

Over the last few weeks, I have been thinking about the role of sharing in education, and how the act of sharing is important in developing better teachers and improving student learning.

To me, sharing is a mix of practical and emotional. There is the electronic and physical sharing of resources; the informal discussions of particular content and skills; the sharing, as appropriate, of pertinent student information; and the sharing of emotions.

In the last three semesters, I have benefited greatly from the ease of sharing resources via UGCloud. I have taught three new courses, and for all three courses I have had EIGHT colleagues share their folders with me. This helps to lessen the anxiety of teaching a new course and it prevents the need to "recreate the wheel". I especially benefit because I get to see what other people are doing in their courses and then shape the course to fit my teaching style and the needs of my students.

Additionally, sharing doesn't just take place on the cloud. Sharing also happens in informal ways as department members drink their morning coffees or eat lunch together. I have added excellent resources to my repertoire, such as handouts about effective presentations, deconstructing visual texts to make meaning, or using transitional words.

Sharing isn't just the electronic or physical exchange of course content and skills. It is important to share information about students on a "need-to-know" basis. This is especially true at the start of a new semester. It is nice to have students' former teachers tell me the techniques they used to best help a student or what warning signs to be aware of.

There is also the sharing of emotions. Oftentimes, teaching can seem like an individual job. It is possible to simply close the classroom door and teach. But I think that the sharing of our ups and downs about our experiences creates a realistic picture of what being a teacher means. It is buoying for me to hear teachers talk about their successes, and it is helpful to be able to share perceived and actual failures and challenges. This allows me to realize that I'm not alone and that all teachers have their wins and their losses.

Now this isn't to say that sharing is easy. I'm sure that there are many reasons why sharing is hard. For some, they may not share their resources. And I bet this isn't because they don't want to; it may because they lack confidence in what they're creating. I think this may also play a role in sharing emotions. No one wants to come across as a braggart when talking about the impact he or she has had on a student or recounting an awesome lesson. Additionally, it is hard to talk about the fact that all teachers fail. Some lessons flop. Some classroom management decisions backfire. But we need to share this and learn from each other.

Essentially, I am thankful that I have colleagues who are willing to share and are eager to support. I think this goes a long way in making me a better teacher, which in turns helps me improve learning for my students.

Thank you.

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